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Gun violence in the US

Carnage in California as ex-Marine shoots 12 dead, after hurling smoke bombs into crowded bar

  • Shooter identified as Ian David Long, 28, a former US Marine, who was found dead at the scene
  • Police officer Ron Helus, who tried to stop Long, was also killed
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 4:57pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 November, 2018, 5:58am

A gunman threw smoke bombs and rained bullets on a crowd of hundreds inside a Thousand Oaks bar that is popular with college students on Wednesday night, leaving 12 dead including a sheriff’s sergeant shot trying to stop the carnage.

The massacre occurred at the Borderline Bar and Grill, with the assailant firing wildly into the crowd.

In addition to the dead, 10 other people may have been injured, according to Sheriff Geoff Dean, who added that it’s too early to know if the shooter took his own life.

Dean named the suspect as Ian David Long, aged 28. He told a news conference Long had likely shot himself and that he was a veteran who had served in the US Marine Corps.

He said he appeared to have shot at random inside the club, using only a Glock .45-caliber handgun. There was no known motive, he said.

California gunman Ian David Long was ex-Marine who may have had PTSD

The gunman burst into the bar around 11.20pm, cloaked in all black. Special weapons and tactics teams arrived on the scene a short time later, along with the FBI. Video from the scene showed bar-goers rushing injured people to medical response vehicles.

Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Ron Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer entered the bar first and were met with gunfire from the suspect. Helus was shot several times and died at a local hospital early on Thursday morning, according to Dean.

Helus, a 29-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, was planning to retire next year. Dean said he died “a hero”.

California shooting: some inside bar had survived Vegas massacre

He is survived by a son and his wife, whom he called before entering the bar, Dean said.

“It’s a horrific incident,” Dean said. “It’s part of the horrors that are happening in our country and everywhere, and I think it’s impossible to put any logic or sense to the senseless.

“This community in my 41 years had never experienced anything like this,” he added.

Witnesses reported a horrifying scene as gunfire echoed through the club and those inside ran for cover, in some cases using chairs to break windows to escape the building. Others hid in bathrooms and an attic as they frantically called loved ones who were hearing reports of the shooting.

A man and his stepfather interviewed by ABC7 Eyewitness News said they heard about 12 shots before they were able to exit through the front door of the nightclub.

“He fired the first shot,” the stepfather said. “And I knew it was real. My son thought it was a joke, so I pulled him down and got some cover. I looked up, and he was moving to the right. He shot the front doorman, who was just a young man. Then he shot the cashier, just a young girl.”

Multiple eyewitnesses described seeing smoke, possibly from smoke bombs, and said people used chairs to break windows to flee from the scene.

“It was sheer panic,” said Teylor Whittler, 19, who was inside the venue at the time. “Everyone ran and dropped as fast as they could.”

She said she ran to the back door, where people crowded as the gunfire briefly quieted. “And then all, of a sudden, a couple of guys started running to the back door and said, ‘Get up he’s coming.’”

Borderline describes itself as the county’s largest country dance hall and live music venue. With a dance floor covering about 2,500 square feet, it is open until 2am five days a week.

Wednesday was “College Country Night” at the bar. Authorities said more than 100 had been inside at the time of the shooting.

Rochelle Hammons, 24, told The Washington Post that she heard four shots before she was able to flee.

“All of a sudden we heard four shots, you know, ‘bang, bang, bang, bang.’ Everyone got down on the floor. Everyone ducked and covered each other,” she said. “As everyone crouched down on the floor, I figured that my only chance would be to run out to the nearest exit. I saw the nearest exit, and I ran out as fast as I could.”

A motive in the shooting was not immediately clear, but Dean said there was no evidence linking the attack to terrorism.

Eleven victims and the shooter were found dead inside the bar by responding emergency personnel.

“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Dean said. “There’s blood everywhere.”

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force was sent to the scene, according to an agency spokeswoman. Representatives from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also dispatched.

The number of people injured is likely to rise, said Ventura Sheriff’s Captain Garo Kuredjian, as many victims transported themselves to area hospitals and emergency rooms with injuries. Dean said at least 10 other people who went to area hospitals had suffered injuries trying to escape the bar, but were not shot.

It was not immediately clear how the suspect died, according to Dean, and the identities of the victims were not immediately released.

The massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since 17 classmates and teachers were gunned down at a Parkland, Florida school nine months ago. It also came less than two weeks after a gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.